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The Great Canned-Soup Taste Test

In which our chief restaurant critic renders judgment on a selection of store-bought varieties.


C anned soup is, well, not homemade. And yet, it is cheap, convenient, and accounts for $3.5 billion in annual national sales. Our chief restaurant critic, Adam Platt, blind-taste-tested two dozen popular brands. His verdicts:

The Rankings

Wolfgang Puck Organic Classic Tomato With Basil
“Good tomato flavor. Chunky, satisfying bits of tomato and basil. Like a nice Italian mamma would cook.”

Best Yet Tomato
“It tastes like the canned soup I grew up with. It makes me want to crumble up crackers in it, watch Leave It to Beaver, cry, punch my brother, and stay home from school.”

Progresso Split Pea With Ham
“If you’re gonna can a soup, split pea is a pretty good bet. The mashed peas and salt work well in canned form, and the best way to deliver salt is through a ham hock.”

Whole Foods Chicken Noodle
“The noodles have a satisfying texture, and it has real hunks of chicken. In canned soup, simplicity works best. Simplicity and a lot of salt. This has so much salt it’s making my heart race.”

Progresso 99% Fat-Free Lentil
“They manage to make it look real, and lentils survive the rigors of canning better than most things. But it’s amazing how salty it is. And the lentils are too soft. They’ve probably been in there for ten years.”

Campbell’s Tomato
“This one’s definitely Campbell’s. It’s slightly watery, and has more bite than the other tomato soup, more of an umami taste. It’s immediately synthetic and metallic, but the finish is better.”

Whole Foods Italian Style Wedding Soup
“Nice bouncy meatballs, a decent, sort of Chinese-food texture, and nice vegetables too.”

Pacific Natural Foods Organic Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato
“There’s a nice creaminess, but the texture borders on goopy, and it has a vaguely chemical backtaste.”

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle
“Nice melty canned noodles, but it looks bad, not real. A classic canned soup from the Depression era.”

Campbell’s Chicken Alphabet
“The alphabet letters make me nostalgic. The broth is a little too yellow, but it’s light and goes down easy. Nice bowl of kids’ soup.”

Progresso Minestrone
“Nice spaghetti-sauce taste. Soft and mushy, and looks like a real minestrone.”

Progresso Chicken Noodle
“The chicken looks processed, and the carrots are so colorful they have to be fake. They look like candy corn.”

Progresso Beef & Vegetable
“Aggressively hearty. My taste buds are shot. The flavors are overwhelmed by heartiness and salt.”

Progresso Beef Barley
“The barley is negligible The meat is all texture and no taste. The broth has a too-heavy bouillon taste.”

Campbell’s Chunky Chicken & Dumplings
“The dumplings are mealy, the beans have a canned, rusty aftertaste, and the succotash tastes like succotash.”

Pacific Natural Foods Cashew Carrot Ginger
“Nicely gingery and slightly carroty. Inoffensive but absurdly sweet, like cake icing.”

Wolfgang Puck Organic Creamy Butternut Squash
“The texture is like Jell-O. Like savory Jell-O. I don’t wanna eat that.”

Amy’s Low-Fat Split Pea
“It looks like green mashed potatoes. The ugliest soup I’ve ever seen.”

Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
“There’s a rule about soup: You shouldn’t be able to stand your fork up in it. It’s an aberration of gluten.”

Healthy Choice Minestrone
“Too sharp and rusty tasting. Probably from the makers of the rusty beef.”

Amy’s Organic Low-Fat Cream of Tomato
“Looks like spaghetti sauce. Sweet, metallic, greasy spaghetti sauce.”

Healthy Choice Steak & Noodle
“The noodles look tobacco-stained, the meat smells like cat food, and the broth is inedible.”

Progresso New England Clam Chowder
“Tastes like it came from the garbage can of a fish factory. Chowder shouldn’t be canned.”

Campbell’s Chunky Beef With Country Vegetables
“The meat has a marbled, Spam look to it. I hesitate to taste it. All right, fine. I’d call it terrible.”


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